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ICE detainees suffer massive outbreaks of COVID-19: The Prospect

photo by Dkadume courtesy of

This report in The Prospect on August 12 states that 70% of ICE detainees are held in for-profit facilities. There is a reason why the Obama administration ordered an end to for-profit prisons: they are ripe for corruption and influence-peddling. Unlike government-administered prisons, for-profit companies make more money when they have more people, so they have a built-in incentive to keep as many people in prison as possible.

For the corporations that run ICE’s detention centers, transfers are lucrative. Immigration Centers of America (ICA), the for-profit company that operates the Farmville facility, receives its funding from ICE on a per-resident, per-day basis. The more detained individuals ICA has in its custody, the more money the company makes.

One facility in particular, the Farmville, Virginia detention center, has an outbreak of COVID-19 in which 259 of its 298 residents (90%) have tested positive for SARS-COV-2 RNA. The outbreak began with a transfer to the facility of detainees who were known to have some people with positive tests. No attempt was made to isolate the positive cases.

On June 2, ICE flew 74 people out from detention centers in Florida and Arizona, to be transferred to Virginia. Despite 51 of them testing positive for the virus upon arrival, they were taken into the facility anyway.

For-profit prison companies are ripe for corruption and influence-peddling, with incentives to lobby elected officials. In part, this is done by making campaign contributions. There are numerous other ways to corrupt government by for-profit prison companies. These examples from the article tell how some of this corruption works:

From the beginning, ICA had the backing of Virginia’s most powerful. Ken Cuccinelli, then Virginia’s attorney general (now a DHS deputy cracking down on peaceful protesters), advocated fiercely on ICA’s behalf in 2008, against ICE’s own humanitarian concerns.  In former town manager Gerald Spates’s telling, ICE initially planned to bring 500 detainees to Farmville, but ICA wanted to house 300 more, to maximize its early profits. Cuccinelli stepped in, ICE’s concerns about space swiftly dissolved, and ICA made its money….

Each year, budget documents show, the town of Farmville receives about a $200,000 cut of ICA’s profits, around 2 percent of its annual budget. … …Its political success—that untarnished reputation among town officials—is rather buoyed by lobbying, and a web of elite connections. … … Across the country, private detention firms have burned up millions on political lobbying …

The industry is larger than just corporations like ICA, which operate detention facilities; it also includes the myriad subcontractor service providers that leech off privatized detention’s profits. ICA, for example, contracts out its medical services to a company called Armor Correctional Health Services …

Armor has donated nearly $70,000 to Virginia politicians since 2013, including $25,000 to Democrat Terry McAuliffe, the state’s former governor. Armor has spent more than $1.2 million on other lobbying.

The current administration has reversed the previous administration’s ban on for-profit prisons in order to provide more opportunities for businesses to corrupt government. The current administration is all about corruption.

There is no bottom to the current administration’s depravity and money-grubbing. The election in November will be the American people’s last opportunity to stop this suborning of corruption, which could destroy our democracy. (“suborn: to bribe, incite, or instigate  (a person)  to commit  a wrongful act.” —

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